Should I Watch..? 'Terminator Genisys'
What's the big deal?
Terminator Genisys is a sci-fi action film released in 2015 and is the fifth instalment of the Terminator franchise. The film depicts a war between machines run by Skynet and the remains of humanity in a post-apocalyptic world. In this film, Resistance leader John Conner sends Kyle Reese back in time to protect his mother from a murderous Terminator - only the world Kyle goes back to is very different from the one he expected. The film serves as a reboot for the series, using its time-travel to essentially erase the events of the third and fourth film. The movie stars Emilia Clarke, Jason Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons and Arnold Schwarzenegger returning to the role that elevated him to the A-list back in 1984. Although the film earned more than $440 million worldwide, the film was panned by critics and was considered a financial bomb by Paramount - which caused a change in the studio's plans for a new trilogy.
What's it about?
In 2029, the human resistance led by long-time leader John Conner lead a final assault on Skynet HQ in an effort to defeat the machines once and for all. But before the end of the battle, Skynet sends a T-800 Terminator back in time to 1984 in an attempt to kill John's mother Sarah. John's right-hand-man Kyle Reese volunteers to go back in time to protect her, which John (knowing that Kyle is his father) agrees. As Kyle begins to travel back in time, he witnesses John being attacked as well as visions of a childhood he never experienced.
Arriving in 1984, Kyle quickly discovers that something isn't right. For starters, a T-1000 is waiting for him and Kyle is rescued by Sarah and none other than the T-800 - or at least, a reprogrammed version - that Sarah insists on calling Pops. As Kyle and Sarah argue about what has happened, they both agree that the fight should be taken to Skynet in a pre-emptive strike. Luckily for them, they have a time machine of their own...
T-800 / Guardian
Courtney B. Vance
Byung Hun Lee
Laeta Kalogridis & Patrick Lussier*
Release Date (UK)
2nd July, 2015
What's to like?
Anyone who was put off by the joyless Terminator Salvation will be delighted to find things back to normal, more or less. Aside from the obligatory opening set in the future, the film goes back to the origins of the series and delivers a full-blown, epic action movie set in a much more familiar world. It's also good to have Arnie back doing what he does best - introducing measures to off-set carbon emissions... Sorry! I mean, walking purposefully in a leather jacket and popping off one-liners. But surprisingly, he is assisted by Emilia Clarke as Sarah Conner who demonstrates plenty of ballsy attitude in her interpretation of the role. She looks too pretty to be a paranoid, off-the-grid gun-head but she does enough to remind you of the sorely missed Linda Hamilton.
Fans of the series might also enjoy the odd throw-back to the earlier films. From exploding tankers and helicopter chases to snippets of dialogue and role-reversals, Terminator Genisys has plenty to savour. The action is more explosive than the last two films though still short of the havoc wrought in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. It helps having baddies that can absorb a seemingly limitless amount of damage, meaning that most of the gunfire is actually pretty ineffective but on the other hand, it means a huge amount of gunfire and fisticuffs.
- The film was criticized by some involved in the production. Emilia Clarke said that she was relieved the film bombed because she did not want to have to reprise her role. And despite initially praising the film, series creator James Cameron later back-tracked and claimed his support was only due to his friendship with Schwarzenegger.
- Costume designer Susan Matheson struggled to find a pristine pair of Nike Vandal shoes for the scenes set in 1984. Having exhausted online searches, she approached Nike to recreate an original pair based on their 1984 designs. Nike wanted Matheson to design a new shoe but after Paramount intervened, Nike relented and produced brand new shoes based on the '84 design. Matheson considers this the crowning achievement of her career!
- This was intended to be the first of a new trilogy of Terminator films. After the disappointing returns and response, the next film (which will have Cameron directly involved in the production) was changed to be a sequel to Judgment Day.
- Cyberdyne Systems HQ is actually the Oracle Corporation campus in Redwood Shores, California. The movie's producers David and Megan Ellison are the children of Oracle founder Larry Ellison.
What's not to like?
It doesn't matter how great a movie's action scenes might be (and frankly, they're not that memorable here) but if the narrative is weak or the supporting cast are poor then the film will fail. Terminator Genisys appears to have a rudimentary grasp of time-travel because this is one of the most muddled and confusing films I've ever seen. You end up with far more questions than answers by the end of the picture and the mumbo-jumbo about alternate realities, diverging timelines and rewritten continuities leaves you slack-jawed in disbelief. And the movie needs more than just sticking Arnie back into his old costume - ill-advised efforts to inject the film with some humour are in stark contrast to the terrifying horror of the original, which is now nothing but a distant memory.
In addition to making no sense, the film also undergoes several twists but handles them so badly that even a mole with a monocle could spot them coming. What also rankles me is the same issue that plagued Salvation and Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines - the action appears to have been performed in CG instead of practical effects that made Judgment Day so good. At times, it feels as though this film uses CG for the sake of it - the helicopter chase is one such example because not only have we seen such action performed before back in 1991 but it's obviously CG due to the sort of movements we see the helicopters doing. This is a watered-down, distilled version of the first two films which were brutal, adult and intelligent. This, by contrast, is dull, obviously made for mass market and dumber than peeing onto an electric fence.
Should I watch it?
You'll never know how close I am to giving this film one star! The only things that really save it are the hard-working performance from Emilia Clarke and the fact that it returns to a more recognisable setting instead of a stark, depressing future. Besides that, the film is a complete mess of incoherent gibberish and action scenes that make little difference to the overall story - such as it is. It is too reliant on your good recollection of the first two films and promises to rewrite the mistakes of the more recent movies. Sadly, it doesn't.
Great For: confusing people, Arnie's bank balance, James Cameron who gets the rights to the series back in 2019
Not So Great For: increasingly frustrated fans of the franchise, anyone who hasn't seen any other Terminator movie, luddites
What else should I watch?
It will come as no surprise to anyone to learn that the earlier movies are the better options and by some margin. The Terminator is a bloody sci-fi horror film which introduced Arnie's iconic T-800, an unstoppable killer cyborg from the future sent back to kill terrified waitress Linda Hamilton with only a desperate Michael Biehn to protect her. No in-jokes, no silly sunglasses. It's a stunning film to watch, even so long after its release but it would ultimately be overshadowed by its bigger budgeted sequel. Terminator 2: Judgment Day remains one of the greatest sci-fi action films in history with effects that amaze, scenes that excite, action that thrills and performances that last. The ending also should have killed any possibility of a follow-up which was a brave decision on Cameron's part.
The moment the credits finish in Judgment Day, the series has been in freefall. Rise Of The Machines was a clunky and poorly thought-out sequel that was simply tacked on in the hope that viewers would forgive its poor cast and disappointing story. Salvation is set entirely in the future already ravaged by nuclear war and machine-helmed genocide but the film is probably more famous for Christian Bale's foul-mouthed rant that was recorded and leaked online. The film, loosely directed by McG, is a visual treat with lots of fancy machines and action sequences but is utterly devoid of charisma, narrative or almost anything to recommend.
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Benjamin Cox